WCSU

Artist Profiles - Drummer Max Roach

Maxwell Lemuel "Max" Roach was a jazz percussionist, drummer, and composer. Roach was born in January, 1924 in the Township of Newland, Pasquotank County, North Carolina. A pioneer of bebop, Roach went on to work in many other styles of music, and is generally considered alongside the most important drummers in history.

In 1942, he became house drummer at Monroe's Uptown House, enabling him to play and interact with some of the giants of the bebop era. In 1952, he and bassist Charles Mingus collaborated to create their own record label, Debut Records. Roach would later record with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and Bud Powell at the historic Massey Hall concert in 1953. Roach continued to branch out in his playing, drumming with Benny Carter, Stan Getz, Allen Eager, and Miles Davis.

In the late 1950s, Roach began adding political commentary to his recordings, starting with Deeds Not Words, but coming into sharper focus with We Insist! Freedom Now Suite in 1960. During the 1970s, Roach formed a musical organization—"M'Boom"—a percussion orchestra. Each member of this unit composed for it and performed on many percussion instruments.

In 1988, he became the first jazz musician to receive a genius grant from the MacArthur Foundation. Max Roach died in August, 2007 in Manhattan.